Many mental health advocates are for careful and judicious use of medications, not the anti medication critics we are assumed to be.
Many times when people in the recovery movement criticize medications, people accuse us of being anti-medication. Recently, our UnDiagnosing Emotional Distress Facebook discussion group decided to recreate our mission. We now focus on social messaging around sharing complete recovery based on knowing that emotional suffering is a normal response to abnormal events. This is part of our move to solution based advocacy, where instead of critcizing the current paradigm, we are creating a new conceptualization of emotional distress with completely differnet treatment options.
Whenever we bring up these topics, though, people often assume that we are anti-medication critics. These are some of the clarifications we’ve found that explain our positions. Many people simply do not know many important facts about psychiatric medications. Some meds are no more effective than placebo, some meds are very difficult to get back off, some meds can increase succesceptibility to futher illness.
Click here to join our group. These comments were edited for brevity and clarity, and all group members were asked permission before their comments were posted. These comments are based on a thorough investigation of research by Robert Whitaker, Peter Breggin, David Healy, and Grace Jackson. Many of them have also been accused of being anti-medication critics, although here is a video of Robert Whitaker showing that he is also for careful and judicious medication use:
Discussion of pro-informed choice medication messaging so that we are not misconstrued as anti-medication critics.
Corinna West: I am not against medication. I think it has some use use when the emotional pain is so great that we need a little distance. But most of us are against medicating for life, medicating everyone the same, and medications first. I’m pro “selective and judicious medication use.”
Adinah: We know that sometimes life is too painful and it becomes an act of self-compassion to block the pain. We respect all choices and cannot ever know what it’s like to be another person. What we stand for is providing more choices, and affordable choices, especially in the long-term.
Susan Kingsley-Smith: It’s one thing to use chemicals to sleep and regain strength and clarity and another to become psychologically dependent and physically addicted. The truth about the drugs and the health consequences of using them need to be shared. There doesn’t need to be a pro or anti position when the truth is presented for true informed consent….
Frank Blankenship: Seldom is consent truly informed. If it were, do you think people would be trading 25 years of life for a drug company blurp? We usually describe ourselves as pro-choice not anti-medication. We’ve got a problem though with people who might be described as pro-medication and anti-choice.
Lael Ewy: I can tell my own story, but I can’t dictate for others the right course of action for them.
Edward Duff: I like saying it this way, “Medical care may assist people with a variety of symptoms, but the type of care, surgical and pharmacological, itself may produce unanticipated and even harmful results. This goes for anatomical and emotional, psychological, and so-called alternative care. The most important thing to do is become educated and keep in mind the well worn Latin maxim, “Caveat eomptor”. Buyer beware.”
Susan Kingsley-Smith: Using meds in the beginning for stabilization and to engage in the learning process is one thing but the long term solution might include emotional awareness and developing the life coping skills to maintain and improve emotional stability over time.
Corinna West Yes, like painkillers for physical pain, just need to know they are addictive, dangerous, and need to be seen as temporary.
Suzanne Beachy: Dan Fisher has suggested expressing the idea that medication needs to be de-emphasized.
Frank Blankenship I’m against the medicating of me. If you want medication, alright. I just believe you should be fully informed before you consent. I informed myself after being forceably drugged, and now I have an arsenal of reasons why I should not take them. I think people would have more chances to recover if there were more treatment choices available than there are at present, and I think among those choices there should be a drug-free option.
Corinna West: If we say “Meds don’t work at all,” that’s a direct contradiction to all the people out there that love their meds. Then they instantly turn off our message. I know that many of those people have confused efficacy for withdrawal symptoms, but to message to the most people, we can’t be scaring people off. Also it’s not effective to deny their personal experience. Remember, that’s exactly what was done to us, and if our story matters, so does theirs even if it’s based on a lie they haven’t learned yet.
Adinah: I just think we can never presume to know what it’s like for another person. Before psych drugs, 15% of people with my diagnosis would become so upset for such a prolonged period of time that they would die of cardiac arrest – their heart would just give out. For me, when I was going through that, I just needed to be sedated, and I was thankful for that. I know that it did not correct anything, but it was still helpful. I find it really triggering when the psych system presumes to know me and know what I need better than I know myself, so I will not do that to another person.
Amy Smith I think the key issue is true informed consent. I have spoken with far too many folks who have experienced deadly, horrific tragedies after just days, or even HOURS, of SSRI use. Not to mention people who are unable to withdraw, are counting beads. My friends in the UK, crazydiamond, tell me if a person is so “manic” they are scrapping them off the ceiling & haven’t slept for four days, they will knock them out for a couple days & they wake up fine. I am all for selective, short-term sedation, but I hesitate to recommend the use of psych drugs for that purpose. I think that a peaceful, loving place where stress can be alleviated would be just as effective. When I am addressing policy-makers, I make it a point to say I am not attempting to throw over modern psychiatry, and I am not anti-psych med. I advocate for a funded choice of treatment, which is something they MIGHT consider (if it will save $$$). Down the road, we can show great outcomes & additional cross-system cost benefit. I temper my message so people will listen to me.
Adinah: Yeah, I guess since I am someone who has gone 14 days at a stretch without sleeping, and NOTHING else worked (and believe me, my family tried it all)… I just see it as the lesser of two evils in emergency situations. I did not need to take psych drugs for longer than a few days, and ended up (mostly) fine for the past 9 years.
Sue Westwind: Great discussion. I see what you mean now about the med-lovers, Adinah, which helps me understand Corinna’s initial caution. I want to share that a number of years ago, after even more years of being a general volunteer, I became a chapter head for Safe Harbor International, www.alternativementalhealth.com. They are very focused on nutrition and supps, but also energy medicine, many things. Anyway, I tried to get a group going in Lawrence, KS for the Heartland Safe Harbor chapter, and we fell apart when we tried to be super wide focus. I’m not saying that any group that might form should just focus on nutrition but we should perhaps stick to the body-mind-spirit interweave. There are lots of places to discuss relationships and how we use language–and I wouldn’t say we outlaw those discussions–but IMO what right now is cutting edge and SUPPRESSED by Pharma is the well-documented angle of approaching the mind through the body, i.e., systems biology. Of course this includes meditation, exercise, green living. I went on to start my business, Natural Mind, an educational course on these things, when the volunteer group fell apart. I invite integrative practitioners to speak and the students just loved it; but I didn’t have the capital to market effectively, and got sidetracked into getting my book ready to publish–it is in the pipeline now. I’m saying this not to pimp my product and services but rather to say how much I appreciate Corinna’s plugging me into this group. I’m hungry to meet other like minds and would be curious where people are located geographically, and what we might be able to do to advance what a nutritional biochemist, Genita Petralli, coined Green Mental Healthcare.
Don Roberts I explain: I am not anti-meds, I am anti-ineffective meds, I am anti-make-matters-worse-meds, I am anti-forced meds, I am anti-uninformed meds. Those are the meds I’m against.
Maria Mangicaro: Advancing ethical, best-practice medication management, shared decision making, collaborative decision making, support patient empowerment, http://www.jopm.org/evidence/case-studies/2010/11/08/shifting-from-shared-to-collaborative-decision-making-a-change-in-thinking-and-doing-4/
Susan Kingsley-Smith: I appreciate the concept although…really…in what other field of health care does anyone make decisions except the user of service? The provider works for the client…except when labeled. Then we are not allowed to direct our own life or make our own health care decisions independently? Inform me, educate me about my issues, offer me options then let me decide. Self directed, self defined means self decided. The language of “collaborative” and “shared” is still not what anyone not labeled would get or expect. What do you think?
Susan Kingsley-Smith: Absolutely. I think through conversations like this we uncover some good stuff. For me personally…I don’t have a problem with a gentle message but honestly I struggle and can’t endorse a message that offers any validity to the lie of biopsychiatry so these discussions are helpful to sort these things out for ourselves and as a group:)
Edward Duff: “Fully-informed and reluctant use of medication might temporarily be worth the trade-offs and risks, but it probably isn’t worth the inevitable stigma.”